How much time do you spend on your phone? How much of that is necessary and how much is diversion? Do you pick up your phone when you suddenly have nothing to do? How about at a meal? Do you use your phone at the dinner table when conversation is supposed to be going on? How about in restaurants? These are all questions that I frequently ask myself.
New York Times tech reporter Kevin Roose addresses some of these questions in his article Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain. Of course, information about taking time off from digital devices is everywhere these days, usually focusing on privacy concerns and the habits that we develop using our mobile phones. But this article is different.
Roose explains that he’s used his phone on the subway, in the supermarket line, at the dinner table, while he’s walking, brushing his teeth, just any time when he finds a few unfilled moments. He’s realized that using the phone to fill every waking moment has become habitual. Over time, he’s decided, that it keeps him from observing the world, interacting with people, and even doing much in-depth thinking.
Roose describes how, since he’s used a mobile phone, he’s become uncomfortable with unfilled minutes or periodic stillness periods that occur throughout the day. So he sets out to break away from the brain-based behaviors that have developed and that his brain around his mobile phone.
Plenty of resources are available in the digital world, many offering tutorials for disengaging from a phone, whether for a day, a week, or even longer. Roose decides to consult with Catherine Price, the author of How to Break Up With Your Phone. Price suggests that he try a 30-day mobile device detox to help him identify get rid of the poor phone behaviors. Over several pages he describes how he goes about changing the habits his brain has learned.
What distinguishes Roose’s article from so many other resources that address our relationships with mobile phones is how he shares intricate details about the “pulling back” process — observations, challenges, and surprises.
Reading about the how Roose goes about working readjusting his phone behavior is fascinating. Yet perhaps the most powerful part of the article occurs where Roose describes the detox challenges to his wife — who then comments she has noticed that he is increasingly present and attentive in conversations and is genuinely listening to her. She likes these changes in their interactions.
Check out the article.